A Culture of Safety- Q+A with Director of Safety, Joe Heston
Joe Heston brings 20+ years of safety management experience in renewable and traditional power plant construction to the DEPCOM Team. For the past six years, Joe has directed the DEPCOM safety program, ensuring the safe construction of more than 2 GW of utility solar projects across the USA. Joe attributes the program’s foundations to those learned in the traditional power industries with centuries of proven safety measures.
What is DEPCOM’s Culture of Safety centered around?
DEPCOM was founded on the belief that our employees should go home at the end of each workday in the same shape they arrived. That’s why safety is not just a priority, it’s a core value. That distinction is what makes DEPCOM stand out because while priorities may shift, safety as a value is consistent and steadfast from onsite field personnel to executive management. DEPCOM has an industry leading 0.00 TRIR score for DEPCOM personnel and 0.42 TRIR score inclusive of all subcontractors from 2 million work hours in the past 12 months.
How is the safety of our construction teams prioritized not only at the project sites but also within the office setting?
Every precautionary measure possible is taken on site to ensure the safety of all onsite personnel. Everyone entering a DEPCOM project site, whether an experienced subcontractor or visitor, is required to take part in a DEPCOM Site Specific Safety Orientation. This presentation covers safety as a DEPCOM core value, required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), step by step safety procedures, and a video with DEPCOM’s CEO championing a message of DEPCOM’s commitment to safety. The importance of safety is reiterated during daily morning planning meetings led by the onsite Safety Manager to discuss any safety related issues at the construction site, across the country, or general safety reminders. The Construction Manager and Safety Manager conduct thorough safety audits weekly with the site team to ensure all safety related measures are up to DEPCOM’s stringent requirements. DEPCOM’s leadership is also highly involved with onsite safety by receiving daily safety updates for every project in construction.
How has DEPCOM’s safety programs/trainings evolved over the years?
DEPCOM’s spirit of constant improvement and incorporating lessons learned is certainly applicable to construction safety. Safety Bulletins are issued regularly and DEPCOM’s Health and Safety policy is updated annually to incorporate lessons learned as new or revised requirements. Recent policy updates include forklift wide load stabilizers, metatarsal protection gear, and proactive measures for subsurface work activities as well as identification and avoidance of overhead hazards. DEPCOM is also excited to roll out “Foundations for Safety Leadership”, a new training series focused on building and solidifying the culture of safety for all onsite management personnel. All DEPCOM sites include brightly colored safety campaign signage, visibly seen at the entrance of the site and around the site as constant safety reminders.
Based on your experience, what can the solar construction industry do to help ensure on site safety?
As a result of the solar construction industry using subcontractors and short-term labor providers, with frequent turnover, it is essential for any EPC contractor to use clear and consistent messaging surrounding all safety procedures and protocols. For example, DEPCOM leverages an experienced and dedicated safety manager on our sites to train every employee and oversee daily operations to help ensure that there are no gaps in vital communication.